Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Writing about a poetic trilogy of bad men
The opening chapter of my book Bad Men: Creative Touchstones of Black Writers concentrates on three volumes of poetry--To Repel Ghosts (2001) by Kevin Young, Leadbelly (2005) by Tyehimba Jess, and The Big Smoke (2013) by Adrian Matejka. The books, respectively, focus on visual artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, musician Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, and boxer Jack Johnson.
I view those volumes as a poetic trilogy of bad men. Those three historical figures inspired those poets to produce really remarkable works. All three books demonstrate the possibilities of poets exploring issues such as racism and black male identity in verse.
My first book and my early years of research and teaching focused on African American poetry. That led me to open this book on the subject. Plus, I noticed that large numbers of black poets utilized bad men as artistic muses.
I'm excited to extend the critical discourse on Young, Jess, Matejka, and contemporary black poetry in general. We've had so much work produced by poets in the 21st century, and we've struggled to keep up with scholarly examinations of their output. So this chapter on a poetic trilogy of bad men seeks to expand the conversation.
You can order Bad Men from the University of Virginia Press. Receive a 30% discount by using the promo code: 10BAD30.
• A notebook on Bad Men: Creative Touchstones of Black Writers